As Nat and Alex Wolff grew older and began dipping their toes into other creative fields, they still always had something to come back to: Each other.
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Nat and Alex Wolff quite possibly have a ghost in their house. They also, quite possibly, are two of the most recognizable names of celebrity figures who have remained relevant from childhood into adulthood. And while the brothers Wolff are no strangers to the limelight, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not still continuously growing; especially in the current state of the world.
“I feel in some ways, I’ve been writing a lot of songs, and we’ve been getting everything together as almost like an emotional maintenance,” Alex explains. “Keeping it healthy; it’s like cleaning out the tank of a pool or something.”
Beginning their careers at the ripe ages of nine and six, respectively, Nat and Alex have maintained an admirable dissonance that allowed them to not fall privy to the pitfalls of childhood stardom. As they grew older and began dipping their toes into other creative fields, each brother becoming an impressive actor and director in his own right, they still always had something to come back to: each other. Their simpatico as brothers has undoubtedly aided in their simpatico as musicians, as they maneuvered an industry that was always growing and morphing and consuming those who couldn’t keep up.
Nat and Alex’s music has grown, too; as they hit puberty and thus grew into men all in the public eye, their music still felt fun and fresh, sticking true to what the brothers personally enjoyed and where their influences came from, rather than feeling subjected to pleasing people for the sake of pleasing people. They have been able to deftly mature from songs like “Crazy Car” into “Rollin’ Around,” all while maintaining a noteworthy panache that never felt disingenuous. And through it all, their fans have nevertheless continued to stick around.
“The fact that we have sort of been changing and developing for the last 15 years, and we still have the same fan base that we had when we were kids…We’ve really evolved musically, but we’ve really kept our core audience and we’ve stayed true to ourselves and stuff,” Nat notes. “So I think it’s just the longevity part of it, because I think we could have been one-hit wonders at like, nine years old and six years old.”
The brothers’ newest song, “Glue,” out today, August 7th, only further proves their prowess as ever-evolving artists. The song showcases a personal narrative that, according to Alex, is about “hanging out with an ex-girlfriend in New York, traveling around to 30 different parties, feeling like you’ll lose her at every moment to every person who’s taller or funnier than you, but still just being happy you get her at all.” The song’s two verses lucidly depict this night on the town, from intimate cab rides to bathroom trysts to the nervous pit in the stomach and a woozy head that make it feel like a million spiders could come crawling out at any moment. As the song swells into its emotional chorus, the brothers then croon:
Well I’ll make it through, if I stick to you
Cover your body in super glue
I’ll make it through a lie or two
Just make it sound good and I’ll say it’s true
“Glue” feels like every fleeting moment that one has when entangled with an ex; the what-ifs, the back-thens, the undeniable, anxious gut feeling that everything feels innately different, yet familiarly comfortable. The song tackles the raw humanness of wanting to feel wanted, while insecurities ebb and flow through each interaction. “Glue” dances around endless possibilities, while never fully landing on a single solution.
As the song draws near its close, the over-anxious feelings become all-consuming, noting:
I swear I said your name 30 times tonight
At this point no one believes you’re real
I swear I said your name
Just make it sound good
Make it sound good
“Glue” pleads to be normal, whatever normal is in this scenario, while still grappling with feeling alienated and hurt. Nat and Alex grasp at the notion of achieving peace, while still desperately trying to not let the anxiety take over. It’s a difficult line to toe along, and one that can be easily overstepped.
“[I]t felt like a fun song,” Nat explains. “It was also a nice statement…Alex does a lot of these songs where they feel like fun, like these fun pop songs, […] and then they actually deal with a lot of themes of alienation and jealousy and possessiveness; things that we both are battling like everyone else.”
Alex, for what it’s worth, swears that he’s always cool as a cucumber in his relationships.
Listen: “Glue” – Nat & Alex Wolff
:: A CONVERSATION WITH NAT & ALEX WOLFF ::
Atwood Magazine: So this is your first single in a year and a half. What made you decide to put this one out first?
Alex Wolff: Well, I mean, we’ve been playing the song live for a while. And, you know, we always knew that we were gonna record it and go in the studio and then we just kind of did. And we have crazy schedules, but we knew it was a priority to get this out. And then we were trying to figure out a time to put it out, and then quarantine hit and for some reason, I was like, “Oh, Nat, let’s do it now; let’s finished now, and get it out,” because we feel like, you know, a lot of people are listening to music right now.
Nat Wolff: It’s also a song that was a fan favorite when we’d play it live and stuff. It’s one of those things where, anytime we would do a livestream during this time or anything, everybody’s like, Where the eff is ‘Glue?’” But also it’s a song that I think is, in a lot of ways, I think it’s a really fun song. But then also lyrically, I think it’s a really special song for Alex and what he’s going through, you know, and what’s happening in the song, I really relate to personally. And so, it felt like a fun song. It was also a nice statement; it kind of reminded me of when we put out our song “Rolling Around;” Alex does a lot of these songs where they feel like fun, like these fun pop songs, in the vein of Fleetwood Mac or something, and then they actually deal with a lot of themes of alienation and jealousy and possessiveness; things that we both are battling like everyone else.
Alex: It’s crazy, ‘cuz I’m cool as a cucumber in all my relationships…
Totally. And yeah, I mean, it's a great song. I love it. It has a really cool vibe to it. And we obviously mentioned quarantining and everything, and your livestreams. Do you feel like you've been more creative, now? I feel like it's kind of a cliche question, but do you feel like you've been more productive, musically?
Alex: In different ways, because I feel like–I was saying to Nat, you know, I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better just musically, in a lot of ways: at piano, and guitar, and just technically I’ve gotten a lot better, because I’m playing a lot more. But at the same time, creatively, I’ve probably never been like, less creative, just in terms of feeling excited by music. I feel in some ways, I’ve been writing a lot of songs, and we’ve been getting everything together as almost like an emotional maintenance. Keeping it healthy; it’s like cleaning out the tank of a pool or something. It feels more like a daily thing to keep us sane, but in terms of creative excitement, I feel like you just don’t have a lot of it in quarantine. There was like a week when we were like, “Oh, we get to stay home and make music?!”
Nat: Yeah, that shit was cute for like, two weeks.
Maybe, not even. And especially, obviously you both do acting projects as well. A lot of that's been put on hold for the foreseeable future, I guess?
Alex: I’m going to do a movie in about two weeks, but it’ll be like, the first movie in COVID time. So we’re gonna see how that goes, because I don’t know.
Nat: Who knows; it’s a whole new frontier.
Alex: That’s been the nice thing, is that being in quarantine, for some reason, it doesn’t really inhibit music. You can still just make music in your house or whatever. Whereas it does really inhibit everything that relies on other people; but music is great because Nat and I, we don’t really rely on anybody else. I mean, in some ways, we do, like engineers and stuff, but we make music ourselves and produce it ourselves the most.
Nat: Yeah, and it’s been nice doing these livestreams, because with livestreams we can reach people in other community experiences, as weird as it is.
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[At this point, we went off into a side tangent about a broken window, stitches, and a ghost in the house.]
I think I've done a Zoom meeting or a Zoom happy hour every week since March. But it's nice, it is nice to connect in that way. -- Sorry. I think my AC just kicked on, so I'm sorry if it got a little loud.
Nat: Jesus Christ.
Sorry, I can't help it. It's 90 degrees right now.
Nat: I’m actually freezing, because we broke–there’s a window broken in our house.
Nat: I accidentally broke a window. And I cut my arm.
You cut your arm?
Nat: Yeah, it sucked.
Alex: Wow, you didn’t even pretend to feel bad for him for even a second!
I'm just -- did you punch through it? Did you elbow it?
Nat: My girlfriend’s dad and sister showed up at our house, and we hadn’t seen anybody in like a month. And I was so excited. And I was also asleep, I was sleeping on the couch. And I jumped up and my elbow knocked into it. And I was like, whoa, I just broke a window, and then I was like, “Oh my God.” But I didn’t feel it at all. My first reaction was laughing too. And then I was like, “Oh, wait,” and then I had to go to the urgent care and then they just put in a couple stitches.
Oh, no, I'm sorry.
Alex: They sewed it up with Converse laces, so we have to go back to the urgent care.
Cool! That's edgy.
Nat: They actually are now going to give me a zipper.
Nice. Love that.
Nat: But basically, that’s all to say that it’s fucking freezing in here because there’s no window. There’s somebody coming on Thursday to build a new window.
Okay, I'm glad it's getting repaired.
Alex: It’s only been like four months since it broke.
It's fine. Better late than ever.
Alex: Quarantine times.
Quarantine times, nothing matters.
Nat: Somebody just walked by the window.
Alex: Maybe it’s somebody to fix it.
Nat: Did you see that?
Alex: Yeah, no, I saw it, it was a ghost for sure.
Oh, it was a ghost! Alright, cool.
Nat: It was a person I’ve never seen before, so, maybe.
Alex: Also, the person was bleeding down her eyes, and she said “get out.”
Nat: She looks to be like, 20 feet tall. That window is actually 40 feet in the air.
It's floating? It disconnected from the house and is just floating off?
Alex: You know what, we’re gonna have to call you back. We’re floating.
[Thus the interview pivots back.]
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So, you both have obviously been in “the industry” for a long time, whatever that is, in many forms. How do you feel like it's changed in the last 10-15 years?
Alex: Well, I basically have only been alive for like 10 or 13 years.
I think people will always be trying to make good music, and trying to make good movies, no matter what the situation.
Well, Nat and I are the same age.
Nat: We’re the old fogies?
Nat: I was just saying recently, it’s so cool, that now–it’s like my whole life, I’ve been interviewed by people and been directed by people and I’ve been on sets of people, where I’m always the youngest. And now it’s finally happening. I just had a meeting with a director on Zoom, and, and then he said something about 1995, and I’m like, “Wait, were you born in 1995?” And he was like “Yeah,” and I was like, “I was born in 1994. I’m meeting with a director that’s younger than me? That’s crazy! That’s amazing.” And then same thing, with this, it’s like, we’re used to being these little dweeby kids and having these interviewers–
Alex: You may have been used to being a dweeby kid, I was being a really hot one.
Nat: I was the dweeby one.
Alex: I was like one of those little boys in the fountain, for many years.
Yes. Very cherub-like.
Nat: What I was gonna say, is that hopefully, people are more accountable since the #MeToo Movement, and the idea of like men having to–because obviously there’s, you know, there’s so much abuse and misbehavior, but it also happens from when it’s not sexual. It has nothing to do with sex. It’s also happened to just, people being abusive and screaming or being aggressive. So it’s nice to–I think people are watching their behavior, which is good.
Alex: But I also do feel like it hasn’t changed, in the way that people are still making music and still making movies and trying to make. And so I’ve noticed that hasn’t really changed in that way. I think people will always be trying to make good music, and trying to make good movies, no matter what the situation. Like even in quarantine, it’s proven that people really want to make good art. They’re desperate for it.
Nat: And you can’t silence the artist.
Alex: Yeah, you can’t. And even more than being silenced, good stuff was gonna keep coming out no matter what is working or successful. I think good art is gonna keep coming out in the face of everything. And, you know, through sickness or whatever the time is in the world, I think people are just desperate to make good stuff, and desperate to push the boundaries. So that is something that I feel like, I guess–if anything’s changed, it just showed me like, “Wow, okay, other people feel this way.” That we need movies, and we need music. It’s not like we’re doing this as an entertainment thing, in the way people have been scrambling to make movies, and scrambling to get their album out. And I’m like, “Oh, you’re a junkie for expressing yourself and getting art the same way!” And sometimes you can get worried when there’s so much commercialism to do with art. You can get worried that maybe those people don’t exist; sometimes I get anxious. I’m like, “Wait, what? There’s other people that are needed the way I need it?”
Alex: This has brought them all out to the forefront.
I guess the most important thing is that this feels like a perfect snapshot of lyrically where I was at, but also musically where we’re at.
So what do you think is the most important thing about the art that you guys make, musically or otherwise?
Alex: Well, that it’s true to us. I mean, this song “Glue” is a really, really honest expression of what I was feeling at the time. And I think I go in and out of feeling like this. And it’s also, I think, our most–in some ways it’s got kind of the combination, it’s got the full spectrum of musically where we’ve been approaching. I mean, I don’t think this all works linearly; musically, you kind of go over here and here, but I think this song in particular is kind of an encapsulation of our Beatle-y influences or, you know, National influences or Fleetwood Mac influences, and kind of encapsulating, for me musically, what we’ve been trying to do. And we have more of a hold over the studio and the drum sounds and everything is more along the lines of what I’ve been chasing, or what we’ve been chasing as artists. So I mean, I guess the most important thing is that this feels like a perfect snapshot of lyrically where I was at, but also musically where we’re at.
Nat: Yeah, we used to kind of also wrestle with the studio; like wrestle with the, you know, what we’re trying to get with the sound in our heads. And now it feels like it’s more of a natural relationship that we have with it, and we’re sort of like– it’s just me and Alex, and we’re working with a producer that we haven’t worked with since we were like 15 and 12, Matt Wallace, and it was like a gift going back to him.
Nice. Do you guys have a home studio as well?
Nat: In New York City, we have a room that we record in, but we recorded this at Matt’s studio.
Alex: Over here [in LA], we don’t have a home studio.
Nat: We don’t even have a fucking window.
Yeah. I mean, bare minimum. Gotta get that first.
Nat: Get the window and then we can worry about the studio.
Alex: Window. Kill the ghost. Get a studio.
How do you kill a ghost?
Nat: You don’t! [Speaking to the ghost]We’re not trying to kill you, thank you! She’s a nice ghost.
Alex: She’s like, “I’m already dead. Oh, you’re gonna kill me? I’m dead!“
Nat: “Been dead!“
Alex: “Oh, can you see me? It’s BLOOD! I’m dead. I have no eyes!“
Can she see you though? She has no eyes.
Alex: “I don’t see you! That’s why I haven’t killed you. I’ve been roaming around you.“
Nat: Yeah, she’s bumping into stuff. Because we wake up to so many sounds in this house, it is actually a rumor that there’s a ghost in this house.
This would make sense then! I – you know what? I'm not gonna even get into my love of the paranormal. That's not what this interview is about.
Alex: What do you mean that’s not what it’s about? If we saw a random dead person walk by, you’d have to include it.
Well, I could talk about ghosts for this whole interview, and I can't do that. For professionalism’s sake. So I’ll just keep flipping back to the “real” interview. Do you guys have any modern influences? You’ve mentioned The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac before.
Alex: The National are huge influences on us, Wilco are huge influences on us.
Nat: Bon Iver is perfection.
Alex: Yeah, Bon Iver; Tame Impala we love too.
Nat: Laura Mvula.
Alex: Oh my god, Laura Mvula is the best.
Who is that?
Alex: Laura Mvula; she’s insane, she’s so amazing.
Nat: Yeah, if people get anything out of this interview, she’s incredible. The Dreaming Roomalbum is unbelievable.
Alex: And Sing to the Moon.
I’ve come to the realization that the things that I’m proud of, whether they get a good reaction or not, are the things that I put my whole heart into.
Definitely will check that out! So do you feel like your ideas of success have changed at all? Or do you even define it? Could you even define it?
Nat: I think my idea of success has changed. I feel like it was–I was sort of going blind. I think if anything, I’ve come to the realization that the things that I’m proud of, whether they get a good reaction or not, are the things that I put my whole heart into. And that I have to trust, that I have to follow my creative heart because if I start worrying about the perception of things that I do, then it just starts to minimize me. And I think it’s probably the same with our music, you know, we kind of just have to go on the–we have to follow ourselves and not abandon ourselves to try to please anyone. And that’s a hard thing to do, because the whole “being successful” is all just you know, having–it’s not you that makes you successful. It’s other people liking your shit. So, you really have to just be delusional about that and just follow your truth because that’s the only way to really feel good about what you’re doing, you know?
Nat: And to abandon the idea–like, you just have to come to the conclusion you’d rather not be successful than not be true to yourself, you know?
Right. And I feel like it's easy to feel like you'd have to compromise.
Alex: Also Instagram followers.
Social clout, absolutely. You guys are good though. You've got like, a million, you're fine.
Alex: Oh, before the bots got taken off, we had 3 million.
Nat: That’s a fucking ego check.
Alex: That was a sad day when all the bots got taken off. I went to therapy twice that day.
In one day? Aw.
Alex: With a mustache on the second time.
Did you put a mustache on top of your current mustache?
Alex: Yeah, just to make sure he didn’t know. He was like, “You look like Alex, but you’ve got a blonde mustache.”
Yeah, you’ve got a weird double mustache.
Alex: Yeah, why’ve you got a weird double mustache, and why is there a stick attached to it? Also, why are you bleeding out of your eyes?
Right. It's contagious.
Nat: Yeah, the ghost is contagious.
And so what is next now? The song is out. What is the plan for the next few months that we have left in 2020?
Nat: My new song “Winter Baby” is coming out next.
Alex: We have a bunch of songs recorded. We’re just kind of figuring out the form to do it. I mean the truth is, there’s no real answer, there’s no real ideal format, especially in quarantine. I mean like, Dominic Fike, he proves you can kind of put out just a collection of a couple songs. I think there’s like a thing–it’s over, we’re past the time of just, album, album, album; I think it’s like, you put it out to any degree that stuff is ready, or stuff fits and it’s cohesive. You know, Public Places was like, seven songs, and we wanted to put out four, or wanted to put out one. I think it’s just about–people just want content. It just doesn’t really matter.
Nat: And we’re gonna put out a music video with “Glue,” too.
Nice. Have you already filmed it?
Nat: Yeah, Jack Berger, who does all of Dominic Fike’s music videos, and he works with Kendrick, and works with all these guys; he, we did it, you know, it’s like a quarantine video, so we did it with just two friends and then the two of us, and so I was lighting Alex’s close-ups and then Alex was lighting my close-ups. And he always hit me with a neon light straight in the face.
Nat: Yeah, “on accident.”
So what is your proudest accomplishment musically, that you've achieved in the last 15 years?
Nat: I think it’s just sticking around, for me. The fact that we have sort of been changing and developing for the last 15 years, and we still have the same fan base that we had when we were kids. I know a lot of people, bands or other people start off as child bands or musicians or something and then, you know, the people kind of fall off, especially if they try to do anything new. We’ve really evolved musically, but we’ve really kept our core audience and we’ve stayed true to ourselves and stuff. So I think it’s just the longevity part of it, because I think we could have been one-hit wonders at like, nine years old and six years old.
Yeah, truly though. So, what do you think? How do you think the music world will change now?
Alex: I think it will be slow on getting back into it. That’s a scary one, because I mean, even like theater and plays, I don’t know, something about that feels a little more organized and sitting or whatever. Then concerts, everybody’s all up in your business. I just feel like, let’s really take our time, as much of a bummer as it is.
Nat: I think there’s gonna be a lot of outdoor shows. I mean I think there’s gonna be outdoor shows that are going to be like, you know, people sitting like bringing their own chairs and sitting and having their own picnic style-thing. Like when they do–you know in Hollywood Cemetery or whatever it’s called, when they do movies or they do shows there. I could see that working COVID-wise because everyone’s really separated.
So I guess to wrap up, what – if you could sum up, in 10 words or less if you can, your favorite part about being artists? Musically or otherwise.
Alex: Okay, we get five each. My favorite part about art… [to Nat]Take it away!
Nat: Is the communication…
Alex: Is the chicks.
Nat: Is the communication… is the personal self expression.
Alex: If you don’t like that, I did say “is the chicks” if you want to put that in.
I will. I'll add both. It was a very loose limit on the 10 words.
Nat: There was?!
I said if you can, I didn't say it had to be done in 10!
Nat: What do you mean!
Alex: We just stifled the hell out of our answer. Are you kidding me! You think I would have gone with “my favorite part about art is?”
Nat: We lost half of our words!
All right, then I will ask with no--we can try this again and then we'll wrap up. What is your favorite part about being artists, making art?
Nat: My favorite part is working with my brother.
Alex: Yeah, I’ll say the same thing. And the ghost. My favorite part about art is getting to connect with Nat, and the ghost.
Nat: That’s kind of deep, if you didn’t know the backstory of us having ghosts in the house, saying ghosts, then “my brother.”
Alex: It’s kinda true. It’s pretty deep.
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? © Shelby Goldstein